GATHERING NUTS FOR WINTER – A SQUIRRELLY IDEA
A very kind reader e-mailed me yesterday and said that it was good to find a blog that was not geared to people under twenty-five.
Phew! That’s a relief to me, because I keep imagining people reading my posts and saying to themselves, “She’s just so out-of-it, so un-hip, so old!
As I think about it, a lot of what I write about is directly related to my age. That makes sense, because the first rule of writing, as we all know, is: Write about what you know. I know something about being fifty-four in the twenty-first century. I don’t know about being twenty-four. Oh, sure, I remember being twenty-four (and by the way, I shudder every time I do), but I was twenty-five in 1974.
The world was so different then. If memory serves, that was the time of leisure suits, wide ties, Watergate, really bad hair-dos, and a time when we were still reeling from the war in Vietnam. It was the early stages of the “sexual revolution”, before A.I.D.S. It was the heyday of Women’s Lib. Some people still smoked pot, and even inhaled (I hear). The seventies were the transition years between the socially and politically explosive sixties and the beginning of the socially and politically conservative (some would say reactionary) ideology that budded in the eighties and came into full bloom four years ago.
So here I am. Admittedly, an aging hippie. My hair is shorter and my butt is lower. I wear new jeans instead of old ones from the thrift shop. My drug of choice is my little white pill (which I only take for getting on airplanes). My live-in lover has become my husband. My only form of activism is this journal that I share with you, gentle reader.
Well, the only true reward for age (apart from having the privilege of being on the earth instead of in it) is wisdom. And the only true wisdom that comes with age is the wisdom of having made your fair share of bloopers. Then you try to share that wisdom with the “young-uns”.
For example, one piece of advice for twenty-five year-olds in 2004 would be to plan for retirement. I can hear you now: “Boring!” But let me tell you why.
I have had the great good fortune of watching my parents’ aging process. No matter what you think you know about “the golden years”, forget it. Nothing in your life so far can begin to prepare you for the physical changes, the financial setbacks, the social restrictions, the steely strength coupled with a gigantic sense of humor that it takes to grow old – unless you, like me, are witnessing the process at close range with someone you love.
Now, you can’t really plan for a lot of this. For example, you can’t say with any reliability, “I probably will need oxygen by the time I’m seventy-five”, or “All of my best friends will be either dead or in Florida fifty years from now”. But you can do one thing: You can plan your finances.
I am by no means an expert on the subject – as a matter of fact, I’m just beginning to learn, myself. But I can help you twenty-five year-olds out there to at least start thinking about all of this.
Remember that your Social Security benefits – if they exist by the time you retire – probably will not cover all your living expenses, or even your most basic needs. Remember that even if you have responsible adult children, they probably won’t be able to cover all contingencies. Remember that an extra twenty thousand dollars spent on a car will probably translate to an extra hundred thousand dollars that could have been saved for your declining years. Remember that you’re probably not going to want to work much beyond a certain age (with very rare exceptions). Remember that you might need medical care beyond a once-a-year once-over from your GP. Remember that you will maintain your right to enjoy life beyond sixty-five. And yes, there’s a very good chance you will live way beyond sixty-five, given the medical breakthroughs we’ve seen in recent years.
There is a wonderful article in the January ’05 edition of Consumer Reports about planning for retirement. (That’s what got me started on this).
But if you’re twenty-five, you probably can’t even think that far ahead, and if you can think that far ahead, I’m probably preaching to the choir. (Sigh). You can’t tell anybody anything, but I’ll probably keep trying.
© 2004, Robin Munson